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London Fire Brigade is staging a major training exercise in a derelict Isleworth office block to test its response to high rise emergencies.
The exercise will also highlight the Brigade’s Know the Plan campaign which aims to improve fire safety awareness for people living in high rise and other purpose built residential buildings.
Around 50 firefighters, nine fire engines and specialist vehicles will be called to deal with a simulated blaze in a block of flats with shops on the ground and first floors. In the exercise a fire breaks out on the second floor, leaving corridors on the upper floors smoke logged and a number of people in need of rescue from their flats. The scenario will also see a number of workers trapped on the building’s upper floors which are under renovation.
To make the exercise as realistic as possible synthetic smoke will be used and local students and London Ambulance Service staff will play casualties and residents in need of rescue.
Station Manager Craig Carter is in charge of the exercise, he said: “It is crucial that our crews are prepared to deal with a wide range of emergencies and this is one of a number of large scale training exercises that we carry out each year. The exercise in Isleworth is a valuable chance for our crews to further practice their response to high rise fires and the derelict office block, acting casualties and simulated fire conditions give us a unique opportunity to test that response in a realistic environment.”
In recent years the Brigade has put in place a number of improvements to its response to high rise emergencies. These include improving the information available to firefighters on the location and lay-out of residential high rise buildings and having a dedicated Incident Command Unit at the scene of all high rise incidents where people are believed to be inside. The Command Unit liaises with 999 Control Officers who give fire survival guidance to people who may be trapped. Those details are then relayed to firefighters on the ground so they receive accurate information quickly about the location of any people who require rescuing.
Station Manager Carter added: “The exercise also highlights the importance of having a fire safety plan and knowing what to do in the event of a fire if you live in a high rise or purpose built flat. Living in a flat is not more dangerous than living in a house, but it’s important to know that your fire plan should be different. Flats and maisonettes are built to give you some protection from fire so if there is a fire elsewhere in the building but not inside your home you're usually safer staying in your flat unless heat or smoke is affecting you.”
Research commissioned by London Fire Brigade shows that 60% of all high rise residents – or around 760,000 high rise households don’t have a fire escape plan. Fifty per cent said they would get out of their flat even if the fire was somewhere else in the block, which can be the most dangerous thing to do when a fire is not affecting your home if you live in a purpose built block. If you leave your flat you could be rushing into choking smoke, the fire itself or firefighters using equipment to bring the fire under control in another part of the building.
To tackle the confusion head on the Brigade’s Know the Plan campaign aims to improve awareness of fire safety for residents of high rise residential buildings so that landlords and housing providers act on their fire safety responsibilities and people living flats and maisonettes in purpose built blocks have a clear understanding of what to do in the event of a fire.
Last year the Brigade attended 716 fires in high rise buildings